BMCR 2022.09.15

Individuals and institutions in the ancient Near East: a tribute to Ran Zadok

, , Individuals and institutions in the ancient Near East: a tribute to Ran Zadok. Studies in ancient Near Eastern records, 27. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021. Pp. xxii, 294. ISBN 9781501520525. $124.99.

This small volume is dedicated to a scientist who has a name in Ancient Near Eastern, Iranian and Jewish studies. His specialty is onomastics (personal, geographic, tribal names), ethnolinguistics and lexical studies of single words, as his extensive list of publications (p. xiii-xxii) shows. His studies concern, i.a., Old Iranian Anthroponyms as well as ancient survivals in modern Palestinian Toponymy, Jewish Onomastics, as well as historical and linguistic studies in the wide region of the Ancient Near East.

As widespread as his interests were and are, so are the contributions in this volume by 13 friends and colleagues. They are organised in five sections: I: The Persian Period; II: Late Babylonian Administration; III: Gods and Temples; IV: Foreigners in Babylonia; V: Peoples and Places in Egypt and the Levant. The Preface (pp. vii-xxii) with a Tribute,[1] a list of abbreviations as well as the list of the Jubilar’s publications precedes them. Indices (pp. 291-294) of Proper names (with exceptions) and Places as well as of Selected general terms close the volume.

Section I, “The Persian Period”, begins with Matthew Stolper’s thorough and very interesting study and reexamination of the 50 numbered tablets in the Persepolis Fortification Archive, their system and their administrative use (pp. 3-78). Half of them are “first tablets” and the other half “2nd” to “14th” tablets in series. His conclusion is that ca. 15 % of the journals and accounts intended for long term preservation were numbered, more than the small sample of 50 might indicate. Eight new texts are edited. Remarks: There are two wrong cross-references: p. 6: 3rd line from the top: p. 14, not p. 13; last paragraph, last line p. 4, not p. 3.

Caroline Waerzeggers (pp. 79-88) edits two small clay tablets bearing on the situation in Babylonia before Cyrus entered the capital, one (BM 60916) dated the day before his arrival. She can show that the Assyrian royal title “king of the lands” that was reintroduced for Cyrus was accorded to him even before he entered the capital. Remarks: typo, p. 84f., line 1: “+28” sheep are copied, +27 given in text.

Stephan Zawadzki (pp. 89-105) edits two clay tablets concerning Persian nobility in Babylonia; one (BM47386) mentions the princess Rataḫšaḫ (l. 1: fra-ta-ak-šá-sa-si), the daughter of Xerxes or maybe his sister (p. 93 with fn. 8). Two new titles are found in the tablet: dan/kal-ta-ru (unclear) and pa-ri-se-e ša bīt šarri, “‘apportioner’ (< Akkad. parāsu, p. 96) of the palace household”. The second tablet (BM 64675) mentions K[ī-Bēl], [the majordomo of] Mardonius. Remarks: typos: p. 90: l. 6: read sumnu instead of sumna; p. 93, fn. 8, 3rd line from the botom: owned!; and p. 104, Reference list: Joannès, Francis!.

Section II, “Late Babylonian Administration”, comprises two articles. Paola Corò (pp. 109-145) studies “Alphabetic(sic) scribes in Hellenistic Uruk”, sēpiru, their professional network, the economic and social sphere they act in, and she also gives an overview of the orthography of the title and the chronological distribution of the sources that mention it. The study closes with a prosopography of alphabet scribes. [It is partly out of alphabetic order – esp. Illūt-Anu/Anu-mukīn-apli, p. 141, might be overlooked and belongs on p. 140].

Michael Jursa (pp. 146-159) leads us through the grey area of gift, bribe and the remuneration of officials in Late Babylonian sources. As is true today, it was not always possible to distinguish between straightforward remuneration, customary/illicit gifts and blatant bribes. Not even the king could abolish the last which was furthered by patrimonial bureaucracy (p. 157).

Section III, “Gods and Temples”, comprises three articles. Paul-Alain Beaulieu (pp. 163-178) has a closer look at theophoric names in seven Late Babylonian archives from Ur. In this period of more than 400 years a change in name giving took place which the author ties to “a shift of religious sensibility” (p. 172). While Type 2 names (showing the status of the god in the pantheon) are heavily represented in the earlier archives that stop with the accession of Xerxes, Type 1 names (stressing personal protection), which constitutes the larger group, prevail. The theophoric names Ninazu and Umunazu (the Emesal version of the former) are discussed in detail. While Ninazu was used in names of the early Gallabu archive, Umunazu was used in the later texts, and only one text has names with both forms. This decline in Type 2 names is due to the weakening of the central status of Babylon upon losing its independence (p. 176); one finds this “shift of priority to personal piety” also in Uruk and Babylon (p. 177).

Rocío Da Riva (pp. 179-214) edits a Late Babylonian ritual text (BM 36736+) that offers new information on the cult topography of Esagil, temple architecture, and the “dynamics of cultic ceremonies”. She summarises the archaeological information to date and information about Esagil in the diverse texts before delving into the new text. She concludes that BM 36736+, by its formulaic/administrative form, represents “descriptions or portrayals of rites” rather than actual “prescriptive rituals or instructions for ritualists” (p. 210). Remarks: The idiosyncratic writing of names of temples, cellas and doors throughout the article made the reviewer halt more than once, especially where there is a conglomeration of vowels, e.g. Kautue(a), Kaudebabbar, Eigidu, Eubaralli, Eadgigi, Euzu etc. On the other hand one finds Ti’amat, Edara’anna and Eš-ša’abzu. In many instances the original, Sumerian, writing is given in brackets. Read Eidimsagga instead of Idimsagga, p. 206, 3rd line from the bottom.

Małgorzata Sandowicz (pp. 215-226) gives a concise review of the history of writing of the divine name BaU in Mesopotamia. She edits BM 47374 with the personal name Bau-iddin in line 10, written mdba-u-mu. She offers the following three steps for how this writing of BaU developed from Babu: 1) dropping of the final vowel: babu > bab; 2) spirantisation of the second b under Aramaic influence > bab; and finally 3), due to phonetic spelling, because the cuneiform script was not able to render baw, the writing ba-u (with U rather than Ú by error) came about; or, alternatively, a development with two shifts took place: /bab/ > /baw/ > /bau/ (p. 217f.).

Section IV, “Foreigners in Babylonia”, comprises two articles. Yigal Bloch (pp. 229-241) concerns himself with a man of Edomite extraction from Isin who is a witness to two texts where he appears alongside members of the Judean community. Nergal-nāṣir, son of Qūsu-…ya (the Edomite god Qos; see also Porten’s article) enlarges the meagre list of Edomite names by one.

Bloch (re)edits two tablets, ROMCT 2, 25 and JCS 28, 44. One expects from a reedition to show new insights of some kind, but this new transliteration of ROMCT 2, 25 (p. 231ff.) is practically the old one of McEwan, which could have been improved upon, esp. as part of the text is also found in JCS 28, 44, which is edited on p. 236ff. Date gardening is a topic many excellent scholars have worked on in the last decades (e.g. Cocquerillat, van Driel, Jursa, Janković)[2] – their works might have been consulted. Both texts belong to the archive of Silim-Bēl/Arrabi, see Jursa GMTR 1,[3] 102 § 7.6.1. In the following two paragraphs corrected readings are presented and marked with “!”, as transcriptions could not be collated against the tablets:

ROMCT 2, 25[4]: obv. l. 2: šá PN1 níg!.ga! [lugal šá! giš!bán! P]N2!(the owner); l. 3: [šá! ug]u! zú …; cf. for ll. 1-5 (of parallel ROMCT 2, 23) van Driel, JESHO 32, 1989, 214, or Jursa, Landwirtschaft (AfO Beiheft 25), 1995, p. 5092. l. 7: KI (itti) with three horizontal wedges is in text, not DI, see photo; rev. l. 10: [pu!-u]t! ˹su!˺-˹ud!˺ -du-du u ˹ma!˺-˹ṣar!˺ -tu4! šá!giš!gi[šimmar!] this line is exactly parallel to JCS 28, 44: 17 (p. 236); l. 8: after g]i-pu-˹ú˺ read lìb[-lìb-bi]; rev. l. 11: [(u!?)] ma-ṣar-tu4 šá giški[ri6! (u!) b]il-tu4 šá! hu!-ṣa!-bi n[a-ši].

Stigers, JCS 28, 49 no. 44[5]: rev. l. 13: dul-lu ina![6] šu!-pa!-lu! gišgišimmar ip-pu-šu-[ …], l. 14: … a-ṣi-tu4 (<ina libbi>!) ú!-še!-e[!-ṣu!!]; l. 15: me-e ḫar-pu!-tu! i-šaq-qu-ú lìb-bi ḫar-ru-ut-tu4, l. 16: i-na-aṣ!-ṣar!(copy: SU)-ru-uˀ [7].

Peter Zilberg (pp. 242-258) edits BM 54043, a hitherto unpublished text, and reedits three more concerning “A curious case of a ‘Greek,’ a Garment and a Grave”, where he exploits points of contact between Greeks and Babylonians. The translation of BM 54043 is missing a main clause in lines 1-7, which is in ll. 1 and 7, iš-pur being the the main verb: “1 m.-garment, which … (and) which …, the ‘Greek’ has sent.” Two dependent sentences (šákašdatiddinuˀ [8]) lie between. Ll. 8-11: the m.-garment was probably not given “by” Nabû-ušallim, since he is dead, and the spade was given for his interment (l. 5). The right lower corner of the tablet is broken from l. 6 onwards, and there are at least four signs missing at the end of l. 9, so the said spade may again be described as being the one for the interment of [šá qe-bé-ri šá] the deceased, mentioned at the beginning of l. 10; or the like.

Section V, the last section, deals with “People and Places in Egypt and the Levant”. Gershon Galil (pp. 261-278) asks whether the expressions “erets philistim”, “philistia” and “ˁmq” and others used in the Hebrew Bible mainly for southern Philistia were also used for nothern Philistia. He takes into account Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions, Egyptian documents and discusses the borders of Solomon’s kingdom. His answer is in the affirmative.

Nadav Na’aman (pp. 279-285) discusses the personal name Laban and the story-cycle of Jacob in the Hebrew Bible. He derives the personal name Laban from the name of the Mesopotamian Moon-god (p. 281) rather than from the Hebrew adjective lābān“white”. He stresses that the North Mesopotamian extraction of Laban from the city of Harran fits an exilic origin of the story-cycle better than a monarchical.

Although there exist some Laban(u) personal names in Akkadian texts and even a dLaban, Laban certainly is not the name of the Mesopotamian Moon-god,[9] even R. Zadok restricts his analysis to: “referring to a lunar deity”.[10] And Laban (god or not) is always said and understood to be West Semitic in origin in the works cited by the author (e.g. Zadok 1977, passim, or Pruzsinszki 2001 (PNAE 2/II), 648). I see no problem in accepting that the Moon-god is being described as ‘the white one’, i.e. full moon, just as the sun (its counterpart in the Bible) is described as ‘the hot one’.

Bezalel Porten (pp. 286-290) concerns himself with names containing the devine element Qos in the Aramaic ostraca from Idumea/Edom. He lists 69 different names, analyses their structure, translates them, and gives Hebrew parallels and other (Biblical) sources for them in a clearly arranged table.

The book is attractive and well made and only a few mistakes/typos found their way into it. The editors are also to be congratulated for the speed with which they managed to bring the volume to publication. The only unsatisfactory thing is that tablet photographs and handcopies are often far too small to be read with ease or at all without a magnifying glass; the copy in Da Riva’s article in particular ought to have been enlarged; Stolper’s tablet photographs are with some exceptions barely readable. Line numbers added to handcopies would have helped readers navigate the texts.

This Festschrift was a joy to read and I am pretty sure that the Jubilar had fun reading it too, made a lot of notes and had a few new insights perusing the articles.


[1] And yes, as so many other colleagues, also this reviewer had her first conversation with Ran about her ancestry and extraction via her surname.

[2] See for their works the bibliographies in Jursa, Landwirtschaft (AfO Beiheft 25), 1995, IIIff., and B. Janković, Aspects of Urukean Agriculture in the First Millennium BC, 2013 (PhD thesis, University of Vienna), pp. 14ff.

[3] M. Jursa, Neo-Babylonian Legal and Administrative Documents. Münster 2005.

[4] For the photo, see, no. P417501 (see Bloch’s fn. 5).

[5] For a photo, see, no. P459935 (not mentioned by Bloch).

[6] ina is written over a vertical wedge!

[7] The sign must be ṢAR, despite clear SU in the copy, parallel phrases show that the verb must be naṣāru, not nasaru (a hapax) ‒ correct AHw p. 1579 (sub Nachträge). The photo might show a somewhat damaged ṢAR, but is unclear.

[8] Delete -<ma> at the end of l. 6, it is not necessary.

[9] See for Nanna/Sîn M. Krebernik, “Mondgott.A. I” in Reallexikon der Assyriologie 8/5-6, 1995, 360ff.

[10] R. Zadok A Prosopography of the Israelites in Old Testament Traditions: A Contextualized Handbook, 2018, vol. I., 273.